Nobody plans to slip or fall. In fact, a slip-and-fall injury is probably the last thing on your mind as you are rushing through the grocery store on the way home from work. Your wife says she needs sweet pickle relish; she’s making her famous deviled eggs for the potluck brunch tomorrow. You turn up the condiment aisle, and head towards the pickles…
Then, out of nowhere, your feet go out from underneath you. Your whole body slams down on the floor. Dazed, you realize you have fallen, you are in a puddle of oil. The oil soaks through your clothes. Two people rush over to see if you’re okay. You think you’re fine, but you did hit the floor hard and the back of your head–it’s already throbbing. As you try to stand up, you feel woozy.
You aren’t a litigious type, most people are not. But if you don’t know for certain what you slipped on and have some idea of what caused the oil to be on the ground, you may not be able to effectively bring a legal claim later. Your injuries could be serious and require a long and costly amount of medical care. Perhaps you notice that the shelf is uneven or there is some glass on the floor where you fell.
Like most people, you’re a little embarrassed and you don’t want to make a fuss. Nevertheless, it is important that you don’t want to act with haste It’s okay, take a breath, and follow the 5 steps listed below to avoid making common mistakes that can limit or make impossible your ability to obtain compensation for your injuries.
Here are the 5 most important steps you should take to get the help that is possible if you are injured at a grocery store:
- Document: This is the beginning of the very important paper trail that could make the difference between being made whole or being left in a hole (of pain and debt and suffering):
- Inform the store manager of the incident: if possible, stay where you are and have the manager come to you
- Take their full name and position (manager, assistant, etc)
- Make sure to include the store contact information
- The incident number from the incident report (that they should be writing–make sure you see it before you leave the store)
- Ask the manager to make sure to preserve any video of the area that might show the fall and how the oil got on the ground in the first place
Obtain witness information: anyone who saw this incident is a potential witness. This includes other customers, employees, and anyone who saw the hazardous condition prior to the accident. At the time of the fall make sure you get everyone’s:
Iii. Phone number/ email address
2). Take pictures! The more the better. Be sure to capture:
- The scene of the fall (the grocery store aisle);
- What caused the fall (broken glass, uneven floor tiles, spilled product, distracting displays–faulty lighting, and any other factors that contributed to the accident). Do not leave the scene before taking photos. If you come back to do it later, the store management may have corrected the hazards before you return;
- Any injuries, bruises, cuts, or abrasions
3). Gather and preserve evidence:
- Gather the clothes and shoes you were wearing at the time of the fall. Don’t clean or wear them again, until the case is resolved;
- Get a piece of the glass, or a sample of the oil – whatever is there that might help to show what it is that caused you to fall.
- If you are hurt at the scene then go to a doctor immediately. No other piece of advice should be considered more important than getting medical care.
4. Keep a record.
Be sure to keep record of all medical care you receive as a result of the fall–urgent care, your Primary Care Provider, massage, chiropractic–this is the best evidence you can provide to prove the significance of your injury.
- If you are badly injured – if you’re in pain, bleeding, suspect a broken or fractured bone, or if there is any chance you may have a concussion – call 911 for immediate care;
- Any head trauma should be evaluated immediately by a medical professional. Do this no matter how slight you may feel the impact may have had on your head. You should be transported to the ER and checked out immediately;
- If you are hurt but can transport yourself, go to urgent care for an exam and evaluation (even if you don’t think you are hurt, you may still want to see a doctor as soon as possible. Many injuries don’t begin to show until hours or even days after a fall).
5. Contact an attorney.
Personal injury attorneys usually provide free consultations and the law surrounding slip and fall incidents is complicated. The store is not legally responsible for compensating you for your injuries simply because you fell on their premises. You will have to prove that the condition at the store that caused you to fall was present due to negligence of the store in creating the condition and/or railing to warn about the condition or remedy the condition. So, for example, if a customer had dropped a bottle of olive oil five minutes earlier and had not reported it to anyone, then it may be difficult to find the store legally liable. Determining as many facts as possible before you leave the store is therefore likely very important as the store will be left in charge of all of the evidence about the hazard when you leave.
At Wiener & Lambka, we offer a free consultation to determine your next best steps. There is no obligation to hire us for your representation. Many cases do not warrant the hiring of an attorney, but all cases can benefit from an in-depth analysis of your case and an honest legal opinion on the potential compensation that you may be entitled to receive. We will advise you as to whether you would be best served pursuing your case on your own or with representation.
If we determine your best bet is to pursue the case on your own, we will provide you with the exact steps to follow to increase the odds that you will get the best outcome.
Finally, If we determine that legal representation would significantly improve your odds for a more favorable outcome, we will explain exactly what that will look like going forward. The decision about hiring an attorney is an important one and always completely up to you, but should be made only after you are fully informed about the legal realities of your claim.